Hi Q-MHI Africa readers!
Global Fortune 500 companies are still reluctant to open shop in the Middle East and Africa based on data which shows that only 196 of some of the world’s biggest companies in the world have offices in the region.
Specifically, Africa’s most attractive destination for regional headquarters is Johannesburg with up to 29 companies have Africa offices there. It may seem unsurprising that the commercial capital of Africa’s most advanced economy—and home to its biggest stock market—is most attractive to global companies. What’s less obvious is that the next two most popular destinations for running African operations are London and Paris. Fourteen major international companies base their Africa offices in Europe.
It’s easy to claim to be surprised but there are many practical reasons many of these companies find it easier to oversee their Africa-wide operations from an office outside the continent.
The report’s authors at Infomineo point to several factors which make some global cities more popular than others. These include local market potential, competitive environment, political stability, laws and regulations, and business language in use. Then there’s quality of the employment market and local resources and infrastructure.
Most major African countries would struggle to get top marks if they were being assessed on all those factors. In fact, London, thanks to the finance and energy industries, is expanding as a center for companies opening offices to run their Middle East and African operations. The report didn’t explicitly mention logistics, but as we’ve noted several times, it is sometimes easier to navigate Africa from a European hub city like London or Paris than many African cities which have much fewer flights and limited cross-border road networks due to poor infrastructure investment.
But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost as far as African countries attracting Fortune 500 companies. In sub-regional terms, Casablanca, Nairobi and Lagos are increasingly attractive to international companies, says the report.
Ultimately, established businesses are going to make the same cold fact-based decisions that investors also have to make when it comes to deciding where to invest in Africa.
It comes down to the basics. If infrastructure development is moving in the right direction; laws and regulations are observed and respected alongside political stability and a workforce that promises as much quality and potential as enthusiasm, then that’s a good start.
Yinka Adegoke, Q-MHI Africa editor
STORIES FROM THIS WEEK
A photo series captures the limitless identity of queer Africans. Photos of gay Africans usually focus on documenting the vilification and oppression they face amongst societies. But Mikael Owunna’s documentary uses fashion and artefacts to debunk the myth that being queer in un-African, writes Lynsey Chutel.
Here’s why Nigerians want .com website—not .ng. Nigeria’s top internet registration company is worried that its countrymen aren’t enthusiastic about the .ng domain. As Yomi Kazeem explains, price is not just the reason why local domains aren’t flying off the rack.
The African island where the number of millionaires are growing. Mauritius has structured its economy to make sure that it’s as attractive to investors as it is for tourists. The island out in the Indian Ocean is also home to Africa’s newest millionaires.
The fall in commodity prices is curbing military expenditure across Africa. The crash in recent years in prices of oil, gold, diamond, and other minerals has slowed the momentous growth of Africa’s economies. But it has also started squeezing how much resources governments can lavish on their military and defense infrastructure.
The search to find and curate Africa’s lost treasure trove of music. Vik Sohonie has traveled from Haiti to Cape Verde, from Somalia to Sudan in search of long-lost African music. In an interview with Abdi Latif Dahir, he talks about the process of finding, sifting, and compiling these rare African gems.
Where in the world is Joseph Kony? The leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army has eluded Western governments and NGOs for years. David Gauvey Herbert travels to Uganda to find that the billions spent on tracking him, has had little benefit for his victims.
CHART OF THE WEEK
The mineral from DR Congo that’s the unlikely hero of global markets. Cobalt is a key ingredient used in lithium-ion batteries that power everything from Apple products to Tesla cars. As Eshe Nelson reports, the insatiable demand for these products has pushed the price of cobalt up by almost 70% this year.
OTHER THINGS WE LIKED
Africa is urbanizing without globalizing. Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa’s third biggest city. Yet the city has almost no connections to the rest of the world. As Daniel Knowles writes in CapX, the city is symptomatic of most African megacities, which are an unproductive mix of slums, crumbling infrastructure, and white elephant projects.
Tracking the trade in albino body parts. In Malawi, more than 115 people with albinism have been attacked for their body parts in the last two years. In this interactive project, Al Jazeera English goes in search of this human body market, and finds a toxic mix of witchcraft, poverty, and desperation.
Land mines still lurk in Angola’s Cold War battlefields. Fifteen years after the end of one of Africa’s longest wars, Angola remains one of the world’s most heavily mined countries. New York Times’ Norimitsu Onisi visits Cuito Cuanavale, a city trapped by mines planted by apartheid South African soldiers on one end and Cuban troops on the other.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Quartz Africa Innovators 2017 (May 3-5). Quartz’s third Africa Innovators list will be announced next week during the World Economic Forum in Durban, South Africa. Like our innovators in 2016 and in 2015, this year’s list will feature some of the continent’s brightest minds, all progressive thinkers seeking homegrown solutions to many of its biggest challenges.
World Economic Forum on Africa (May 3-5). The World Economic Forum on Africa will convene regional and global leaders from business, government, and civil society in Durban to focus on priorities that will help Africa achieve inclusive growth. Q-MHI will host a panel with WEF on Africa’s Unicorn Effect in the tech sector.
Frontier 100 Forum (May 5-6). The Initiative for Global Development annual forum will take place in Durban right after WEF. The meeting will focus on the role of the global and regional private sector in spurring job creation and innovation in Africa.
Nigeria International Book Fair (May 8-13). The 16th Nigeria International Book Fair will take place at the University of Lagos. The annual book event has grown to be one of the continent’s big book events, attract participants, publishers and printers from all over the world.